Ten Days A Madwoman: The Daring Life And Turbulent Times Of The Original Girl Reporter, Nellie Bly

Paperback | February 7, 2017

byDeborah Noyes

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The compelling and true story of how one truly dedicated journalist admitted herself to an asylum to write a groundbreaking exposé. 
 
Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the nineteenth century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing columns about cleaning or fashion. But fresh off a train from Pittsburgh, Nellie knew she was destined for more and pulled a major journalistic stunt that skyrocketed her to fame: feigning insanity, being committed to the notorious asylum on Blackwell's Island, and writing a shocking exposé of the clinic’s horrific treatment of its patients.
 
Nellie Bly became a household name and raised awareness of political corruption, poverty, and abuses of human rights. Leading an uncommonly full life, Nellie circled the globe in a record seventy-two days and brought home a pet monkey before marrying an aged millionaire and running his company after his death.

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The compelling and true story of how one truly dedicated journalist admitted herself to an asylum to write a groundbreaking exposé.    Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the nineteenth century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing columns about cleaning or fashion. But fresh ...

Deborah Noyes is the author of nonfiction and fiction for young readers and adults, including Encyclopedia of the End: Mysterious Death in Fact, Fancy, Folklore, and More, One Kingdom: Our Lives with Animals, and The Ghosts of Kerfol. She has also compiled and edited the short story anthologies Gothic!, The Restless Dead, and Sideshow....

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:160 pages, 9 × 7 × 0.41 inPublished:February 7, 2017Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0147508746

ISBN - 13:9780147508744

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Chapter 1: The Gods of Gotham When the ambitious young reporter Elizabeth Jane “Pink” Cochran—known to her read­ers as Nellie Bly—left her life and family behind in Pittsburgh, Penn­sylvania, she was confident one of New York City’s major daily news­papers would hire her at once. She had spunk. She had experience. She was fearless and eager to learn. And she was wrong. Nellie left her mother, Mary Jane, behind in Pittsburgh on a May day in 1887, promising to send for her when she found steady work. She stepped up onto a train and later stepped down into the most populous city in the nation wearing a flowered hat she had bought while reporting in Mex­ico. Like thousands of other young hopefuls, twenty-three-year-old Nel­lie Bly was on her own for the first time in her life. She rented a tiny furnished room overlooking an alley on West Ninety-Sixth Street. Her lodgings were in the northernmost part of settled Manhattan, where Broadway be­came Western Boulevard, and the “boulevard” wasn’t paved yet. Goats wandered through, nibbling weeds in vacant lots between squat houses. It was about as far from where Nellie needed to be every day as it could get. Her destination was Park Row, also known as Newspaper Row, a street slanting northeast from lower Broadway where newspaper offices hunkered along one side near City Hall. The trek downtown each day was epic. Nellie rode a steam locomo­tive a half hour south on the Ninth Avenue Elevated Railway. Then she walked east on streets where people lived grimly packed together in ten­ements (and were often “roasted,” as newspaper reports of the day liked to put it, in devastating blazes). Ty­phus, cholera, and influenza swept through the area at regular intervals. Gambling dens and bordellos thrived while the police looked the other way. Robbery and murder were common­place, keeping city reporters on their toes. The streets were a hazard in their own right. One of thousands of horses hauling the city’s carts, car­riages, hansom cabs, omnibuses, and streetcars might bolt at any mo­ment, their transports careening into bystanders.Nellie pounded the Park Row pavement in vain. The gatekeepers at the Tribune, the Times, the Sun, the World, the Herald, and the Mail and Express, who turned away aspiring re­porters every day, were unimpressed by her Pittsburgh portfolio.To scrape by that first summer in New York, Nellie wrote freelance articles for her old newspaper, the Pittsburgh Dispatch, where she had made her start and a (literal) name for herself. They were the sort of Sunday style stories she hated, about the rage for puffed sleeves among fashionable New York women, for example.Around the time that her money and patience were beginning to run out, the Dispatch forwarded a let­ter from a young Pittsburgh woman. An aspiring journalist wanted Nel­lie’s advice: Was New York the place to get a start? Could a woman writer make her mark there?Nellie must have wanted to laugh out loud at the irony. But then an idea struck. What if she called on the editors of New York’s six most influ­ential newspapers, on behalf of the Dispatch, to harvest their thoughts on this very subject? She would “obtain the opinion of the newspaper gods of Gotham” and, at the same time, gain audience with the men who held her future in their ink-stained hands.The first paper she visited was the Sun. As she climbed the dim spiral staircase to the third-floor newsroom with its haze of cigar smoke and rau­cous conversation, anxious office boys darted here and there on errands. In the summer heat, men would have removed their suit coats and vests, working in sweat-stained white shirts with high celluloid collars and rolled sleeves.Her entrance must have caused a stir. Female reporters were still com­paratively rare, even in big cities like New York and Pittsburgh—Nellie proved the exception to this and other rules—and there were likely no other women in the newsroom that day when she was escorted into the office of the paper’s formidable editor and publisher, Charles A. Dana.Between his reputation for hiring college men and his flowing Father Time beard—backed by a stuffed owl looking down from a shelf of reference books—Dana must have cut an impos­ing figure to a hungry “girl reporter.” But after flushing out his stance on the topic with a few ques­tions, Nellie asked, boldly, “Are you opposed to women as jour­nalists, Mr. Dana?”Certainly not, he objected. But “while a woman might be ever so clever in obtaining news and putting it into words,” he said, “we would not feel at liberty to call her out at one o’clock in the morning to report at a fire or a crime. . . . [w]e never hesitate with a man.” Women also, he maintained, “find it impossible not to exaggerate.” Nellie soldiered on: “How do women secure positions in New York?” She thought she saw a twinkle in his eye as he replied, “I really cannot say.” Nellie continued along Park Row with her questions. The editor of the Herald informed Nellie that for better or worse the public wanted scandal and sensation, “and a gentleman could not in delicacy ask a woman to have anything to do with that class of news.” The Times editor had never felt compelled to take up the topic with his colleagues. Mr. Coates of the Mail and Express called women “invaluable.” The way they dressed and their “constitution” ruled out hard reporting, but they were ideally equipped to cover stories on society, fashion, and gossip. Women were “more ambitious than men,” the editor at the Telegram echoed, “and had more energy,” but he “couldn’t very well send a woman out on a story where she might have to slide down a banister. . . . That’s where a man gets the best of her.”At the New York World, Colo­nel John Cockerill complained that women didn’t want to write the fash­ion and society stories they were best fit for. “A man is of far greater ser­vice,” he said in his forthright way, though he also claimed to have a cou­ple of women on staff. “So you see, we do not object personally.” After weighing the words of these six powerful men, Nellie summed up their views: “We have more women now than we want. . . . Women are no good, anyway.” Her article, “Women Journalists,” traveled out from Pitts­burgh to New York and Boston and received notice in The Journalist, a na­tional trade magazine. Her choice of subject matter was brilliant strategy: it put Nellie Bly in the right place at almost the right time. Her moment was coming. But she had to hit rock bottom first.

Editorial Reviews

Accolades for Ten Days a Madwoman: - A Junior Library Guild selection"Noyes makes history accessible and irresistible in this thrilling account of women’s lives, flagrant abuse, scandal, courage, and tenacity. . . Excellent." —School Library Journal, starred review"You should also read Ten Days A Madwoman, even if you’re not in middle school. You’ll learn something. Because this isn’t just a storybook telling of a woman’s adventures . . . For a book that chronicles the life of a reporter at the end of the 19th century, Ten Days A Madwoman holds a startling prescience to the issues we face today, from benevolent sexism in the newsroom to the continued exploitation of the working class . . . a gripping book from start to finish, for kids and adults alike." —The A.V. Club"Plenty of pizzazz. The brisk narrative draws from Bly's own writings and from biographies, skillfully incorporating quotations, dialogue, and well-chosen facts. The overall tone is admiring, but the balanced text also acknowledges criticism of her kind of "stunt" reporting and touches briefly on problems in her personal life . . . A lively biography that reflects the spirit of the intrepid reporter." —Kirkus Reviews"Noyes’s thoroughly researched account, with archival photos and myriad quotes from Bly’s own work, offers a well-rounded look at a self-possessed women who was nothing if not resilient." —Publishers Weekly"Noyes' vivid storytelling throws us headfirst into Nellie Bly's inspiring work and incredibly daring adventures." —Steve Sheinkin, National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor–winning author of Bomb and The Port Chicago 50“Ten Days a Madwoman thrilled and terrified me at the same time. I’d heard of Nellie Bly as a crusading reporter, but had no idea how daring, impetuous, and smart she was. I’ve got a new hero.” —Elizabeth Partridge, National Book Award Finalist and Printz Honor–winning author of John Lennon and This Land Was Made for You and Me “Noyes delivers a riveting narrative of one of our cleverest and most resourceful heroines, zeroing in on Nellie Bly’s first exposé, and putting us right in the madhouse alongside sane women being driven crazy.” —Tanya Lee Stone, Sibert Medalist and NAACP Image Award–winning author of Almost Astronauts and Courage Has No Color  “In Ten Days a Madwoman, Deborah Noyes gives us a compelling portrait of Nellie Bly, the audacious young reporter who risked her own safety to expose social injustice. Vividly written and gorgeously illustrated, the book brings fully to life a heroine of her time — and ours.” —Matthew Goodman, bestselling author of Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World"Noyes' emphasis on muckraking as opposed to showmanship is a valuable corrective to Bly's popular legacy." —Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books "A stimulating read for those interested in strong women throughout history." —VOYA "A good, readable introduction to a fascinating vanguard." —Booklist  "Noyes smartly...engage[s] readers." —Horn Book  "In this truly thrilling, appealingly designed, photo-laden biography by Deborah Noyes, readers will not only get a chilling look into the horrors of Blackwell's Island, but also a sense of women's challenges in 19th-century America." —Shelf Awareness